A distant battlefield shook as the sound of another explosion created another crater to litter the already pock-marked battle field. The horizon glowed bright orange like the edges of a smoldering paper, smoke rising up in long black tendrils into a twilight sky to obscure the distant moons floating far overhead. Sand crunched beneath boots as Adora walked up to the naturally formed terrace to look out across the scene. The dry wastelands just beyond the Frightzone were swarming with banners of bright color, a rainbow of cloth whipping in the arid wind as the Rebellion made its final push against the Horde.
The young soldier turned rebel surveyed the masses with a stoic gaze, a trio of figures watching expectantly as fingers gripped the golden hilt of her sword. It was time to give everything she had, lifting the blade aloft and letting out the battle cry that evoked hope in the hopeless and fear in the ferocious.
“FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!”
It echoed across the desert, seemingly endless in the distance it carried. Heads turned and banners rose to a chorus of triumphant cheers as they watched the young woman shift before their very eyes. The power of Etheria itself coursed through her as she became an entity of solid light, growing in size and radiating like a star until the display ended with a peel of thunder.
Once more, Adora looked out across the vast army of peoples united by a single cause, her vantage point a little higher and the faces looking back a little brighter.
She-ra was here.
The war was as good as won.
She held her head high, hair billowing behind her as she posed a little longer to drink in the cheers before she pointed the sword forward and let loose a bellowing warcry.
But before she could join the charge, another crack of lightning struck from the stormless skies, and she whipped around to find another form with sword held aloft. A curved thing, riddled with runes and held tightly in the clawed grip of a feline figure. Dark, tan furs turned golden and eyes that had always been so radiant on their own sparkle like jewels as Catra’s form finished it’s transformation, clad in the whites and golds of She-ra as well.
And once more, the army let loose a cry of growing excitement.
“What are you doing? You can’t be She-ra!” The warrior woman pouted, pointing at herself. “I’m She-ra!”
“Well.” The fluffier of the two retorted, resting on her sword like a cane. “I wanted to be She-ra too.”
“That doesn’t make sense, there’s only one She-ra though and it’s my turn! You got to be her last time!”
Before the bickering could continue, a flash of pink and purple placed the confused Princess Glimmer between the duo of She-ra’s.
“Wait, Catra gets to be She-ra? I wanna be She-ra too then!”
“What?” It was Catra’s turn to find the idea of an additional chosen one of Etheria offensive. “That’s too many! Two is like. Ju-”
Before she could finish, Glimmer jabbed her staff over head. The sky tore open with the discharge of electricity as her form shifted. From the form of solid light, wings jutted forth and a short bob of hair extended into a flowing tapestry of the night sky itself, stars and cosmos trapped in it’s longs strands as it took a twilight gradient flowing from gold to a soft violet.
The army cheered again, with just as much enthusiasm and not an ounce of confusion.
“Woah! Okay, that’s super cool! I think Glimmer makes the best She-ra.” Adora conceded as she took in the visual of her friend turned princess of power.
“What?! That doesn’t even make sense though! She-ra uses a sword! A SWORD!” Catra shook her sabre at the duo, stressing the point. “... although the wings are cool.”
“Thank you, thank you.” Glimmer ran a hand through her hair, shooting stars streaking behind her fingers. “But hey! If we’re all going to be She-ra, Bow! Do you wanna-”
All three turned to find Bow already stood at an imposing eight feet in height, glowing golden hair flowing behind him as he held an ornate bow.
“Yes. Yes I do.”
Adora laughed giddily as she turned back towards the awaiting battle, pointing back out at the Fright Zone. “Alright! One She-ra was good, but FOUR is gonna be great! The Horde won’t know what hit them!”
They all cheered save Catra, who promptly blew a raspberry and dropped her sword, transforming her back instantly.
“Too many She-ra’s. If everyone’s gonna be She-ra, I wanna be a… a… I wanna be a TIGER!”
And with her declaration, so it came to pass. The already feline figure began to shift, dropping to all fours as muscles bulged and fur erupted across her body. Teeth, massive and imposing, jutted forth from her maw and stripes manifested like ink soaking through cloth all at once. The beastial, hulking shape lowered it’s head, rumbling a low growl that mounted into a terrifying roar that echoed like cannon fire.
It was hard to decipher her expression in such an animalistic form, but somehow Catra managed to look smug at the others still.
“Oh! Yea! Let’s do animals!” Adora clapped, looking her friend over in awe. “I wanna be… a… Horse!”
And like that, in an anticlimactic puff of glitter and smoke, a snow white stallion with golden mane stood where Adora had been a moment ago.
“Neigggghhh!” she said. As in the word neigh. Not the actual act of neighing.
“Ok! Yea I wanna play animals instead too! Can I be a hawk? I wanna be a hawk! Did you know Hawks can see for like. MILES!?” Another poof of smoke, and Bow was a large bird of prey flapping his wings excitedly.
“Did you know cats eat birds?” Catra licked her chops, prowling a little closer.
“I’m a horse! Neigh-ayayayayyyyy!”
Glimmer watched as Adora trotted and Catra chased after a giggling Bow, still standing tall with the universe in her locks and magical staff in her hands. She considered the scene with contemplative silence before announcing loudly.
“I wanna be a dinosaur!”
Once more, another eruption of smoke as a terrifying, massive purple saurian form rose from the glittering smog, it’s scales shimmering with rainbows like an oil slick in the end of day light. Rows of sharp teeth parted and her tail lashed as she bellowed a roar at all three and proceeded to charge, joining Catra in the hunt before even the mighty saber toothed tiger had become her quarry.
The battlefield fell away, the desert erupting into a verdant forest and emerald fields as the menagerie of beasts chased each other.
Of course, the scene was a little different from the balcony overlooking the castle courtyard. From there, Queen Angella watched as a quartet of children ran through bushes and over manicured grass. The scrappy little magikat child hopped up onto a rock on all fours, letting loose another attempted roar only to sound like a yowling housecat looking for dinner as her daughter ran past, elbows pulled close to her chest in a dedicated attempt to anatomical correctness as she took long strides after the other two who galloped and flapped their arms away respectively.
The immortal queen allowed herself a moment to abandon posture, leaning an elbow onto the railing and setting her chin in her palm. She felt that after everything, she earned it.
It was a little over a month now since the real final battle against the Horde. It was a decisive move, fraught with danger and only possible thanks to sheer determination of her Allies and a string of good fortune. An all or nothing effort to end the war before the enemy entrenched any deeper, striking at their heart when they saw the chance.
The results were an undeniable victory. The leadership of the Horde all either captured or laid low during the battle. Their armies routed into the wilds. Loose allegiances breaking away from the dying war machine leaving it nowhere to set new roots. What was left now were only extremists, bunkered warlords striking out against a vastly superior force in an effort to revive the evil machinations of a dead madman.
For the first time in a long time, Etheria could breathe a collective sigh of relief as evil was forced to hide away in the shadows for another day.
Of course, as with every victory, it did not come without sacrifice.
There were many homes which would not be seeing loved ones returned. Many half empty beds and tables with one too many chairs now.
Almost as much to mourn as there was to celebrate.
The queen caught her fist tightening as her thoughts strayed, only to be pulled back to the scene at hand just in time to spot young Bow perched in the low branches of one of the trees. Her heart jumped into her throat as he flapped his arms and- to the chanting and cheers of his friends- promptly lost balance and fell. She was about to vault over the balcony herself when she saw the palace guard who had taken note as well, catching the laughing boy as he plummeted towards the earth.
The guards shoulders heaved in the same manner as Angella’s as they held on tight to Bow, only to find themself swarmed by the rest of the children all jumping up and down demanding a turn to fly as well.
A grin played across the Queens face as she could just make out the debate that ensued.
“H-hold on. Don’t everyone go jumping from trees. Just … I mean. Uhm. Bow was a hawk, wasn’t he? None of you have wings as a horse or cat or dinosaur. So it wouldn’t make sense if you flew.” The armored figure tried to dissuade the mob, only finding the logic of a child not so easily defeated.
“I can be a pegasus!” Adora was the first to strike a valid counterpoint.
“Yea, and a dinosaur with wings is just a dragon! I wanna be a dragon!”
“I just wanna fly!”
The warrior tried desperately to find a way of getting out of having to explain how the princess broke her leg when they tried their plan B.
“Alright but. That’s not fair to Bow, is it! After all he’s a hawk! Hawk’s get to fly, all of you are already really cool different animals. Flying is Bows special thing.”
“I don’t mind!” He chimed, still captured in their arms.
Adora and Glimmer, however, found the point valid. They gave it a moment of thought before coming together on a compromise.
“If we get to fly, Bow gets to be a hawk-” Adora began.
“-AND She-ra.” Glimmer concluded.
“Oh that’s a good deal.” Catra added with a note of sarcasm that seemed a little too mature to be coming from someone beneath the age of ten.
“Yea! I can be … SHE-HAWK. Or HAWK-RA!”
The guard stammered, trying to find a way to stop all of these children from jumping out a tree when they spotted the queen. A pleading look in their face begged Angella to step in and, after a moment, she couldn’t find any other way to respond except smile and shrug.
It wouldn’t kill them to play with the children, and after everything they’d been through they deserved a little special treatment.
Sighing in defeat, they paused a moment to collect their thoughts as shouting children all vying for attention at once made thinking difficult. It took a moment, and then two, and then an idea struck that ensured no one would be going truly airborne for the time being.
Not truly, at least.
With hands under arms, children began to be hefted up into the air and spun around one by one. Each trying to get in front of the other for the next chance to do it, each of them staggered only briefly in a slight daze before reentering the race for next in line. It went on and on, enough that the guard began to grow visibly tired as a saving grace entered the courtyard from one of the open walled hallways skirting it’s perimeter.
Another armored figure entered, standing in the doorway a moment to take in the scene when from around her sides a new trio of pint sized Ex-Horde cadets barreled into the fray.
One, dark skinned and hair pulled back, charged Catra -still staggered from dizziness- and full on tackled her to the ground in a spirited bout of rough-housing. The cadet named Lonnie, Angella recalled, was one of the children in the same squadron as Adora and Catra, which made the proceeding dogpile feel less like something that had to be broken up as the little blonde girls asymmetrical smile flashed before hopping in as well. Laughter and excited screams emitted from the pile as they wrestled, and for a moment she half expected Glimmer to dive in as she cheered from the sidelines before Bow dragged her along towards the other two.
The guard sighed in relief as they took the chance to escape.
Kyle and Rogelio, one diminutive and moushish as the other was large and scaly. The human of the duo had a colorful bandage wrapped around their arm which the two arrivals inspected immediately with a mix of curiosity and concerns which they vocalized to the point it looked like their diminutive peer was about to curl up into a ball to escape the attention.
“What happened? Did you fall from a tree?” Glimmer gripped his wrist to get a better look.
“I almost fell from a tree.” Bow added with a nod.
“Yea! Bow almost fell from a tree pretending to be a bird! Were you pretending to be a bird and almost fell out of a tree?” Glimmer leaned in close, as if she could discern the source of the injury by looking over the sky blue fabric.
“N-no. Uhm. I…”
“Did you fall out of a tree pretending to be a dragon? I was pretending to be a dragon.”
“What were you pretending to be when you fell out of the tree then?”
The nearby guard who had brought the trio to the courtyard attempted to suppress the laugh, only managing to choke it down to a snort.
“I didn’t fall out of a tree! I just fell out of bed and scratched my arm on the uhm. The clothes box.”
“Clothes box? Do you mean a dresser? Did it hurt? Are you okay?” Bow now butted in, pressing practically cheek to cheek with the princess to inspect the uninspectable wound.
“Yeah it’s fine. I’m uhm. I’m clumsy so it’s okay. It happens!” He smiled an awkward smile and tried to pull his arm free, only to find it held firmly in place.
“I dunno! I think we need to do some medicine!” Glimmer declared in the loudest voice she could muster, turning with a dramatic flare to Bow who snapped to attention. “Nurse! We need to help the patient before it’s too late!”
“Yes doctor Glimmer! How do we begin?”
Kyle watched in horror as the young soon-to-be malpracticed doctor looked him over grimly.
“We have to take it off.”
The idea of an amputation, pantomimed or real, did not sit well with the other children as much as it did Glimmer. So much so that it was little surprise the straw-haired boy began to cry at the prospect of losing his arm, eventually resulting in the intervention of the adult he’d entered with. Which, in turn, upset Glimmer because she didn’t mean to make him cry and in then in turn upset Bow because all of his friends were now crying.
Rogelio seemed unphased.
Thankfully, after a moment of the guard calming all parties involved, she steered them a new course- and away from any form of faux medical care. They sat now in a circle, emotions calming but still a few sniffles left amongst the group.
“Why don’t you tell them what you told me earlier, Kyle? About the colors.”
“I uhm…” he hesitated, looking on at a nodding smiling face of his caregiver for a moment before continuing on. “I got to pick what bandage they put on. And they had all different colors. I didn’t know there were so many colors. And now this one is my favorite.”
“And what color is it?” The smile was audible.
Angella smiled as she watched the discussion carry on until eventually the guard convinced them all a fine way to spend them time besides performing battlefield medicine was instead coloring, leaving briefly to allow Bow and Glimmer to inform the other two they knew about all of the colors, their alphabet, and most numbers.
Bow even proudly told the group he understood the concept of addition and subtraction already.
With a contented sigh, she broke away from the scene just as the scrapping trio found themselves more intrigued with the paper and crayons being brought out rather than continuing their tussle, hustling over to join the rest of them in lively discussion and drawing.
She turned on her heel and entered the castle, navigating towards a set of stairs as she took a moment to revel in the success thus far with bringing the children into Brightmoon.
Just as the war had ended a month ago, so did the victors of the final conflict find themselves with one of many trials that had been born from their success.
Thousands of members of the Horde all with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Of course, plenty stuck to the old ways, banding together to fight to the end. But they proved to be the minority. Once the Frightzone fell and word of Hordaks defeat spread, soldiers yielded in droves. They were aimless and naive of how the world worked, left uneducated and trained only to fill the roles the war-machine of the Horde needed. Their entire world suddenly cut away like an elaborate backdrop leaving them as remnants of a thing that had ceased to be. None of them had ever had the choice to be anything but a soldier or mechanic, raised from youth to meet expectations.
After much debate, it was agreed it was unfair to condemn them all to punishment for something they never had a choice in.
So began the task of reintegration.
Many of the Princesses remained hesitant to put their trust in the same soldiers they had been fighting just weeks prior, but Plumeria was proving to be the leader in the charge as they welcomed the manpower with open arms and boundless kindness.
And if they could find it in their hearts to welcome them into their homes, the same homes that had been on the front lines of the battle since the beginning of the war, Queen Angella knew it was only a matter of time before the others softened their hearts as well.
Which was all the more reason that when they discovered the leagues of children who had either been stolen from their families or their families stolen from them, Brightmoon was quick to act.
Unlike Plumeria, they had been shielded from much of the conflict. Their resources were still abundant, and there was little work needed for rebuilding- so who better to take on the task of reuniting families and forging new ones for the countless orphans now left without a place to call home?
So it had come to pass that the mass adoption of those in need began. Volunteers came in boundless numbers, and Queen Angella herself took a page from her nature loving neighbors to lead by example.
When the call for loving homes went out, it came with the declaration the Queen herself would be taking on two new wards to care for herself.
Before word had even left the palace, members from her court down to the kitchen staff had stepped forward in a show of compassion that was only echoed by the subjects beyond the castle walls. Those who could worked tirelessly to reunite broken families, while others with the means opened their doors to new additions to their family.
And in just that month, the results were breathtaking. No child was left without a home, and friendships forged in their time in the Frightzone remaining intact as childhood companions became neighbors and siblings.
The only thing that made her heart feel fuller than the thought of the endless kindness of her subjects uniting yet again for a greater good was…
Glimmer practically radiated as she spotted the Queen press her way through a door and entering the courtyard, teleporting away from her work in progress of herself as a dragon and into an embrace.
“Hello darling.” Her voice was soft as she muttered into the puff of glittering pink hair pressed to her chest. From just over the mess of her starlit mane she saw her guards salute, and three more figures rushing over to her.
Well. Two rushed. One was dragged along as she complained about not being done with her picture and how Lonnie was going to ruin it.
Bow, with a smile from ear to ear and politeness in every movement, offered a bow.
So young, and yet so formal. It brought a smile to her lips knowing even if she let him know he could be more familiar he never would out of respect. His father's raised him right.
Adora, however, attempted formality but… struggled. She snapped a harsh salute and a ninety degree bow.
“Queen Mom, sir.”
Still confused, but trying. She barely just suppressed an amused snicker behind a clearing of her throat and a curtsey back.
And of course. Catra, still glaring daggers back at Lonnie and trying to nonverbally convey threats, lacked all manner of formality as she looked up at her.
That, however, she couldn’t repress the chuckle from. Her recovery was just as quick though, recomposing herself to a regal posture.
“Bow, Adora, Catra. How is the playdate going? Is everyone getting along?”
The cacophonous response of four excited children speaking at once was, bluntly, incomprehensible.
“Calm, children, calm!” She laughed lightly, setting Glimmer back down to join her friends before- to the surprise of her onlooking guardians- sitting down in the grass besides the circle of half done drawings, gesturing for them all to continue with their work. “I take it it’s going well so far? I suppose then, instead, what are you all looking forward to doing today?”
A collective inhale was cut short as she quickly added.
“One at a time, please.”
The day proved to be more exhausting than even the longest of war councils, but without question far more satisfying. Angella took the day from every other duty to satisfying that of mother, staying with the group until parents came calling to collect.
It remained in the Courtyard for hours, excited discussions of desired activities that ranged from the impossible to the mundane being discussed and encouraged. They couldn’t go setting anything on fire, as Lonnie and Catra insisted, but they could certainly take a visit to the stables to allow them all a chance to ride one of the many horses and learn a little more about them. The discussion and impromptu art session lasted until lunch was brought out, the cooks excitedly presenting an array of simple foods with distinct profiles, continuing the new pastime among the kitchen staff to watch the reactions of the Horde orphans as they experienced new tastes, textures, and flavors for the first time.
From there, they took to playing once more burning off a little energy before proceeding down to the stables for the promised equestrian activities. They each took to being on horseback in their own way, and young Adora practically had to be pried off of her mount when the rest of the group grew bored with feeding apples and trotting in circles. It was clear this would not be her last time in the saddle by the time they eventually convinced her to dismount with promises of her return in the near future.
After finally getting them to all leave the equines alone, they took a royal procession into the surrounding city built around the Brightmoon castle where they not only terrorized amused street merchants but encountered dozens of old friends all out to enjoy the warm afternoon. The city was practically overflowing with children, and after a fair bit of corralling and explanation from one of the older girls watching over a new brother and sister, a game of some sorts was coordinated.
Angella sat among her people and fellow parents, watching the displays of sportsmanship play out there in a lot between businesses.
The Horde children, as unfamiliar as they were with the ideas of organized sports, seemed to immediately take to the structure and proved to need no handicap from those who had been playing the game for far longer.
By the time the game ended and all the children too caught up playing to have been keeping score, the sky began to dim as twilight crept it’s way over the horizon, and Angella suppressed an uncharacteristic giddiness as she lead them all to a secret she had prepared back in the palace.
Dinner had been prepared and laid out yet again in the courtyard- this time on tables instead of picnic blankets- and a small stage set up and lit with aimed lights.
Performers introduced themselves to the confused collection of youths before ducking behind the curtain which suddenly became host to an array of shadows that moved and danced to a chorus of wonderment. The show continued over the course of the meal, dazzling them all with displays of puppetry that impressed even the enraptured armored guards who had been accompanying them for the day. The Queen couldn’t help but find more amusement on the faces of the audience than from the stage itself, revelling silently at the head of the table at each gasp of amazement and surprise.
Once dessert had been served and subsequently devoured by a ravenous little pack of sweet-tooths, the show came to a close and at long last parents arrived to collect. One of Bow’s fathers waited quietly off to the side, watching the show along with the rest of them and stealing a quick piece of cake and cup of coffee before he was noticed. And promptly on time, her Head General arrived exactly on the chime of nine. Her scarred stoney face melted into a grin the instant Lonnie, Kyle and Rogelio all spotted her, already beginning to inform her of every little detail of the days events as she collected their things and wished her Queen a good night.
Farewells were said, and eventually Angella was left with three little girls all beginning to feel the need for a good night's rest:
Glimmer, Adora, and Catra.
As with the rest of the day, she remained with them through every step of getting ready for bed, letting her servants take the evening off. She set out pajamas to the sounds of splashing of water coming from just the other room, poking her head in to ensure nothing had been flooded from what was meant to be bath-time. Teeth were brushed, and hair was combed as she sat on the edge of Glimmers inset sofa. Catra and Glimmer each found some common ground as they fussed the entire time, Adora proving to be the only one who seemed to enjoy the process.
And finally, each was tucked in. Her daughter had agreed to sharing her room after the first few nights proved to be hard on the others being alone, all three now taking to their own suspended bed. Angella sat on the edge of the stairs leading up, reading from a tome laid open in her lap until the inevitable happily after and good night kisses.
And then, to the click of the door shutting, the Queen found herself exhausted and alone.
She felt in her heart an aching that was so common with the end of a great story, a hunger for more but acknowledgment that it was done. It was time to put the book away.
Clicking heels resonated through empty halls as she navigated through the castle that felt suddenly far too large. The occasional servant or staff would salute at her passing, but each encounter was only as long as it took to utter “Your Highness.”
By the time she reached her quarters, hesitation struck her. An urge to turn around- to join her daughters- overcame her as she stood at the unopened door. A desire to occupy herself with company of those she loved the most or some other distraction that could not be found even among the unending flow of her duties. And as she gripped the handles to the double doors and pressed them open, she felt that ache of an ending story once more but knew it was not for the day spent with her children.
She knew more of those would fill their future.
She knew it was not that story that had ended.
For a time, she just stood at the edge of the empty room, looking into it as her eyes slowly adjusted. Most of it was exactly as she’d left it that morning, and some of it was exactly how she’d left it for a month as it threatened to collect dust. At its center a massive bed sat, and as she stared it over a sense of dread began to fill the immortal queens belly. It was just a pile of silks and feathers, she told herself, nothing to fear.
And yet .
When she approached it, it was with the quiet reverence of a criminal condemned to the gallows. Magic lit the room with a dull glow as she went about her night-time rituals in a dispassionate mechanical fashion, setting away her clothes and jewelry and changing into a nightgown whose thin fabric weighed down on her shoulders like lead.
Once more she found herself standing silently at the edge of something that should have been easy. Struggling with something so simple.
It took minutes for her to finally work up the nerve to slip beneath the covers, sitting against the headboard as she looked straight forward. Eyes shut, then opened, and did everything they could from looking at the half a bed that remained empty and pillows that had not seen a head for weeks, eventually welling with tears as she conceded.
Fingers found the pillows first, stroking the casing before gripping it in a white knuckled fist. Her regal demeanor began to erode, and there in her cold bed the queen let herself do something she knew she was above.
Silence broke as she gasped a sob, pressing a palm to her face to feel the heat and streaming tears running down her cheeks. Her gaze looked over to the expanse of blankets and the aching loneliness in her heart threatened to hew it in two. She tried, so hard and valiantly, to resist the urge to sob again and a sense of shame washing over her as she found she could not.
It had been a month since she got everything she could have wanted out of the war.
But it had also been a month since she received word that in the final confrontation, to ensure victory, King Micah gave up his life.
Guilt stung at her the back of her throat as it choked another sob out of her, pulling the pillow to her chest in a tight one armed embrace while she covered her mouth in an effort to silence herself. She knew it was what had to be done. She knew that he did it knowing that he was making a trade that he couldn’t not make, giving up himself for thousands.
Thousands of people who would be chewed up by the war, years of conflict and pain all ended because of the sacrifice of himself and all those who laid their lives down as well.
There was no other choice, and yet she couldn’t help in the loneliest hours long to celebrate a victory with her husband. Angella wanted to raise their daughters together, but knew had he not done what he did those very same children who played in the streets might have one day met on a battlefield as enemies.
It was the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
And yet in her weakest moments she would give anything for one last day with him. One last chance to tell him she loved him.
Lilac hair matted to her brow as she openly wept now, unable to hide it from the invisible critics of her selfishness. Breaths came between ugly hiccups as any sense of decorum had died, and the immortal, angelic being who lead an army of free peoples to victory felt so impossibly small in that moment.
And then, she heard something.
Bloodshot eyes snapped to a cracked open door, the queen quickly wiping at her face with her forearm as she saw a familiar diminutive form standing in the doorway, hesitant to croak out a whispered call.
“Yes, yes. Hello Glimmer dear…” she tried to hide a sniffle, producing the brightest smile she could. “What’s the matter darling? Do you need something?”
Tiny feet shuffled in place as her daughter clearly struggled with what to do, glancing back towards her room before finding courage enough to walk with egg-shell worthy steps towards the bed.
Without a word, she hopped up and clambered into the bed, waddling towards her mother on her knees to embrace her.
She reciprocated immediately, whispering gently.
“Is something wrong sweetheart? You can tell me, if you want.”
“... are you sad?” Glimmer’s voice was so tiny, like the barest resonating ping of a pin dropping. But despite it’s barely audible delivery, it resonated like thunder in her heart. The burning of tears threatening to return to her eyes made her hesitate, falling to silence as she fought the urge and found comfort in the tiny body which she held onto so tightly.
With a sigh, she managed eventually to speak honestly.
“Yes, darling. Yes I am.”
There was silence as Glimmer leaned back, looking her mother in her glossy eyes with a sense of misunderstood understanding. After all, she was a girl without her father even if she struggled with the idea, failing to truly grasp the meaning of his death or the concept itself.
But she knew she missed him, even if she didn’t understand why she’d never be able to see him. Never just didn’t feel that long to a child, it seemed.
“It’s okay mom.” She whispered, pulling back in for a hug that mimicked all the things Angella would do when trying to comfort her. A hand patted the back of her head in an effort to stroke her hair, and her brow pressed to hers as she whispered again. “It’s okay.”
A cracked mix of laughter and crying escaped her as she hugged her little princess tightly, nodding to her as she echoed.
“It will be okay, won’t it?”
Long moments trailed on as they held each other, Angella finding a font of comfort in her little girl. Her brave, sweet, considerate little girl who would be free from the strife of war and all its horrors.
She took solace in knowing that, and eventually peace as she recomposed herself.
“Now…” she said with another sniffle, leaning back to look her over. “What was it you needed darling? You didn’t just come in here because you hear mama crying, did you?”
A sheepish smile perked plump, rosy cheeks as Glimmer shook her head.
“They were having trouble sleeping.”
Angella blinked, finding the pair of pointed ears and fluffy hair poking just over the edge of the foot of her bed before she heard the whispered shushing from Adora.
“Girls. Is this true? Are you having some trouble getting to sleep?” Ears perked and voices eeped as the sneaky little duo hid a moment, conferring in whispers before coming to an agreement. Slowly, they revealed themselves from their compromised position as they nodded.
“Everything’s too big…” Adora began. “It’s kinda scary.”
“Yeah, and the beds are still too soft…” Catra whined.
“Still? Well. I’ll have firmer mattresses brought up tomorrow, and perhaps if you’d like we can get you a pair of bunkbeds if that’d make you more comfortable hm?” Her smile was warm, softening the harsh pangs of pain she felt from the contortions that came from fighting the weeping.
“In the meantime, if you’re having trouble sleeping, why don’t you join me up here girls?”
A sudden surprised hush came over them before the duo began a quick huddled conference. Glimmer, however, promptly took the offer and began to weasel her way under the covers and leaning against her mother.
By the time she rested her against Angella’s side and loosed a content sigh, the others had reached an agreement.
“Is that allowed? We weren’t allowed to share bunks before.”
“Darlings.” She cooed, patting the flank not yet occupied. “It is both allowed and here if you want it.”
Quiet claimed them again as they hesitated, looking her over as if it was some manner of trap or test before Adora found the courage to accept. She looked to Glimmer for guidance as she slowly crawled up the mattress, finding only an example to follow as she wormed beneath the sheets. She sat, stiff as a board, until Angella’s fingers wove through her hair and she caught a smile, eventually easing against her as well.
And, once again, all eyes were on Catra who stood at the foot of the bed.
If Adora had been uncertain, she was outright skeptical as those duochromatic eyes looked for some manner of hidden tell.
“Catra dear?” Angella pried gently, gesturing besides Adora. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I can go find someone to set up another bed for you right now, if you’d like.”
Still hesitant as she was silent, Catra shook her head. Her ascent was trepidatious, as if walking over tripwires as she approached before finding herself at Adora’s feet. She never broke eye contact with the queen as she kneaded the portion of mattress besides her leg, only surrendering the staring match as she walked little circles on all fours and curling up into a ball with her head on her thigh.
An amused little chuckle escaped her, and for a moment she felt ease once again as the bed suddenly felt so very full. The pangs of longing and lost still resonated, but they softened against the radiating warmth of love she felt for her girls.
“How about one more bedtime story?” she offered, knowing it was as much to distract her as it was to ease them into a peaceful slumber.
They all nodded in eager agreement, and so it went the same way every great story with Once Upon a Time ’s and Happily Ever After ’s. But as she found herself surrounded by the gently snoring form of her daughters, she realized something.
Life isn’t like the stories, because in the books happily ever after is a prize the heroes win. It’s something tangible, something won and fixed to the wall like a trophy. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Because even in the best of times, there will be hardship. Even at the happiest, there will be regrets. Happily ever after isn’t a badge to be won, but a garden to be tended.
It’s something that is earned and maintained, something every person has to choose if they truly want it. There will always be weeds. And there will always be harsh winters. But if happily ever after is something that’s wanted, it needs love and effort just as all things worth pursuing in life.
Micah won Angella and so many others a garden. A wonderful, beautiful garden with the seeds of greatness planted, but it was now up to her to tend them. It would take hard work and patience, long days and knowing that she might be around to see it’s full beauty, having to leave that honor to those to follow.
But for the time being, every day, Angella would tend it, cultivate it, And give the best life she could to preserve the happy ending they deserved.
Because all the best stories end.
With a happily ever after.